Legal Blog

The Weekly Scenario: What Happens If I Don’t Have A Will?

Question: I’m not sure I need a Will but what happens if I die without a Will?

Answer: If you have property, it is important to have a Will. With that being said, the more property you have, having a will could become that much more important. I’ll take an extreme case of a recent celebrity who died without a Will. The “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin, is reported to have died leaving behind a vast fortune estimated to be over $80 million dollars. She is reported not to have had a Will.

When there is $80 million on the line and no Will, suffice to say, the chance of litigation increases exponentially. This is one of the primary reasons to have a  Will: to avoid conflict and litigation.

Now, instead of Aretha directing how her estate will be distributed in accordance with her wishes, a judge interpreting state law will decide how to divide the fortune. On top of the costs of litigation, there will be a lot of taxes to pay, some or all of which could have potentially been avoided.

State law will determine where her estate will eventually end up. In Aretha’s case, it will likely be her sons. This may have been what was intended, but maybe not. The better course of action would obviously have been to have a plan and a clear direction.



As always, if you have any questions or would like to learn more, please contact Steve Shane at or 301.575.0313.


Steve Shane Casual | 301.575.0313

Steve Shane provides strategic counseling to clients in need of estate administration, charitable giving and business continuity planning while minimizing estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax exposure. He offers legal guidance to clients on asset protection and the proper disposition of assets in accordance with the client’s objectives, while employing tax planning techniques such as the use of irrevocable trusts, life insurance planning, lifetime gifts and charitable trust. He is also experienced with drafting documents for business planning, the incorporation and application for exemption for Private Foundations and the administration of decedents’ estates.





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